U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown presses for action on bill to lower drug prices

News U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown presses for action on bill to lower drug prices

CLEVELAND, Ohio — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown stood in the corner of a Cleveland supermarket Tuesday and launched a broadside on the pharmaceutical industry.

He argued prices for prescription drugs are out of control, and that the businesses responsible are offering scant justification for sudden increases.

“They are not developing new cures, they are not investing, they are not often even doing the clinic trials,” he said of companies behind recent price hikes for generic drugs. “Instead of making something new and innovative, they buy the rights to existing drugs, they lay off workers, and they hike prices by sometimes 800 percent, 900 percent, 1000 percent.”

Brown made the appearance to push for a bill he is co-sponsoring — The Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act — to lower drug costs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate prices on behalf of seniors.

“We know Medicare prices help set the rate for the private market, so if we can bring the price down for Medicare overall…we will be able to stabilize drug prices” for consumers throughout the market, he said.

The press conference followed a Plain Dealer story last week that reported Cleveland’s largest hospital systems are facing millions of dollars in added costs due to skyrocketing drug prices. University Hospitals expects to pay at least $3.6 million more in pharmacy costs, while the Cleveland Clinic is contending with more than $11 million in added expenses. Most of the increases reported by the hospitals were for generic drugs whose prices spiked after they were sold to new owners.

The elevated costs are often passed on to patients, particularly those with high deductible insurance plans or gaps in prescription drug coverage.

The pharmaceutical industry has opposed efforts to expand federal powers to control prices in recent years, arguing such interference would stifle innovation and prevent drug companies from discovering new cures. On the bill being pushed by Brown, a spokeswoman for one industry trade group argued it would undermine savings already being achieved by private plans that represent millions of Medicare beneficiaries and are currently allowed to negotiate prices.

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